National service of celebration to mark John Wesley's 300th anniversary

The President of the Methodist Church, the Rev Ian White, willlead prayers tomorrow at a national service of thanksgiving for thelife and ministry of one of Britain's greatest Christians, JohnWesley. The service will be held at Lincoln Cathedral on the dateof 300th anniversary of the birth of the founder of Methodism.

The service is being broadcast live on the internet atwww.bbc.co.uk/lincolnshire

And the Order of Service is also available online at:www.wesley2003.org.uk/lincoln.htm

Many of the 6,100 Methodist churches across Britain areorganising their own services, exhibitions and other festivities tomark the anniversary.

The birthplace of John Wesley - Epworth Old Rectory - is amonghistorical churches and museums across Britain celebrating the300th anniversary of John Wesley this week.

John Wesley recently featured in the BBC's Top 100 GreatBritons, those people who have been most influential on the life ofthe British Isles. In his latest biography, Roy Hattersleydescribes how "Wesley's influence on the new industrial workingclass would play a major part in shaping society during the centuryof Britain's greatest power and influence leading to Methodismbecoming a worldwide religion and the inspiration of 20th-centurytelevision evangelism".

Epworth Old Rectory is on the site of the former northLincolnshire house where John Wesley was born in 1703 and spent hisformative years. In 1709 Wesley narrowly escaped from a devastatingfire that destroyed the original rectory. Wesley's father, Samuel -a Church of England clergyman himself - oversaw the building of thecurrent house. The Old Rectory now houses a popular museum in oneof the most tranquil parts of rural Britain.

John Wesley was born on 17 June 1703. He became a renownedpreacher and spiritual leader of the 'Methodist revival'. He livedand died as a Church of England clergyman, keeping his vow toremain with the church of his birth. But the movement that hefounded eventually became the largest Free Church in Britain. Andwith some 70 million followers, Methodism is today one of theworld's largest Christian Churches.

A celebration for the Methodist Church andbeyond

A series of special exhibitions and events for the 300thanniversary are expected to boost visitor numbers from Britain andbeyond during summer 2003 to a number of locations associated withthe life and travels of John Wesley. Some of the locations sure tobe among many visitors' destinations include:

Epworth Old Rectory

From now until 31 October 2003, the Old Rectory is hosting ananniversary exhibition of John Wesley's life and writings. Thisincludes a number of Wesley's personal letters (on show up to 31July) and a collection of paintings and drawings by local artistJohn Hurst (up to 31 October). A life-size bronze statue of Wesleyhas been newly installed. Contact: The Warden, Mr Andrew Milson,The Old Rectory, 1 Rectory Street, Epworth, Doncaster, S YorkshireDNB9 1HX. Tel: 01427 872268

Wesley's Chapel, London

Wesley's Chapel and house in City Road, London (Old Street orMoorgate tube), are regularly open to visitors. The Museum ofMethodism there tells the story of the evolution of the Methodistmovement, and the house also contains many items associated withJohn Wesley. Around City Road are many places also associated withWesley, such as his mother's grave in the Bunhill Fields burialground and the buildings of Charterhouse where he went to school.At Aldersgate Street is the 'Aldersgate Flame' memorial,commemorating the place where Wesley experienced his 'conversion'in May 1738. Contact: The Curator, Wesley's Chapel, 49 City Road,London EC1Y 1AU. Tel: 020 7253 2262.

The New Room, Bristol

The 'New Room' built by John Wesley in 1739 is the oldestMethodist building in the world. Restored in 1929, it retains muchof the atmosphere of the 18th century. Above are the rooms wherethe travelling preachers met and lodged. Nearby is the house whereCharles, the bother of John Wesley, and his family lived, now aheritage centre open to visitors and for scholarly research.Contact: The Warden, Mr Mark Topping, The New Room, 36 TheHorsefair, Bristol BS1 3JE. Tel: 0117 926 4740.

Lincoln College, Oxford

Lincoln College can be said to be the cradle of Methodism. Itwas while a Fellow of Lincoln (1726-1751) that John Wesleyestablished the Holy Club, which gave rise to the term 'Methodist'.Founded in 1427, Lincoln is one of Oxford's oldest and mostperfectly preserved colleges. Attractions include the 15th CenturyHall where Wesley ate with colleagues and students, the 17thCentury Chapel and 18th Century All Saints Church where Wesleypreached and worshipped. Contact: LincolnCollege, Oxford OX1 3DR Tel: 01865 279800

Other Wesley anniversary events:

  • More than 400 participants are this week attending aninternational academic conference at Manchester University, 'JohnWesley: Life, Legend and Legacy', on 15-18 June 2003.
  • The annual British Methodist Conference, being held inLlandudno, north Wales, between 28 June and 4 July, will host avariety of celebrations to mark the anniversary including a paradethrough the streets of Llandudno and a lecture by RoyHattersley.
  • BBC 'Songs of Praise' has dedicated a special edition toWesley. This programme, broadcast last Sunday, was filmed at theRoyal Albert Hall on Sunday 30 March.

More information on the 300th anniversary ofthe birth of John Wesley